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Quotes of the day: Michel de Montaigne

Published Friday, February 28, 2014 @ 12:49 AM EST
Feb 28 2014

Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (February 28, 1533 – September 13, 1592) was one of the most influential writers of the French Renaissance, known for popularizing the essay as a literary genre, and commonly thought of as the father of modern skepticism. He became famous for his effortless ability to merge serious intellectual exercises with casual anecdotes and autobiography— and his massive volume Essais (translated literally as "Attempts" or "Trials") contains, to this day, some of the most widely influential essays ever written. Montaigne had a direct influence on writers all over the world, including René Descartes, Blaise Pascal, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, William Hazlitt, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Friedrich Nietzsche, Stefan Zweig, Eric Hoffer, Isaac Asimov, and possibly on the later works of William Shakespeare. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


A man must be a little mad if he does not want to be even more stupid.

A wise man never loses anything, if he has himself.

As far as fidelity is concerned, there is no animal in the world as treacherous as man.

Even on the highest throne in the world, we are still sitting on our ass.

Every other knowledge is harmful to him who does not have knowledge of goodness.

Few men have been admired by their own households.

For truth itself does not have the privilege to be employed at any time and in every way; its use, noble as it is, has its circumscriptions and limits.

He who does not give himself leisure to be thirsty cannot take pleasure in drinking.

He who has not a good memory should never take upon him the trade of lying.

How many things served us yesterday for articles of faith, which today are fables for us?

How many worthy men have we seen survive their own reputation!

I find that the best goodness I have has some tincture of vice.

I quote others only in order the better to express myself.

I speak the truth, not my fill of it, but as much as I dare speak; and I dare to do so a little more as I grow old.

I want death to find me planting my cabbages, but caring little for it, and even less for my imperfect garden.

I will follow the good side right to the fire, but not into it if I can help it.

In my opinion, every rich man is a miser.

It (marriage) happens as with cages: the birds without despair to get in, and those within despair of getting out.

Lend yourself to others, but give yourself to yourself.

Let no man be ashamed to speak what he is not ashamed to think.

Let us give Nature a chance; she knows her business better than we do.

Malice sucks up the greatest part of its own venom, and poisons itself.

Man is certainly crazy. He could not make a mite, and he makes gods by the dozen.

My trade and my art is living.

No matter that we may mount on stilts, we still must walk on our own legs. And on the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom.

Not being able to govern events, I govern myself.

Nothing is so firmly believed as that which we least know.

Physicians have this advantage: the sun lights their success and the earth covers their failures.

Saying is one thing and doing is another.

The day of your birth leads you to death as well as to life.

The life of Caesar has no more to show us than our own; an emperor's or an ordinary man's, it is still a life subject to all human accidents.

The man who fears suffering is already suffering from what he fears.

The most certain sign of Wisdom is a constant cheerfulness.

The plague of man is boasting of his knowledge.

The souls of emperors and cobblers are cast in the same mold... The same reason that makes us wrangle with a neighbor creates a war betwixt princes.

The thing I fear most is fear.

There are some defeats more triumphant than victories.

There is no man so good that if he placed all his actions and thoughts under the scrutiny of the laws, he would not deserve hanging ten times in his life.

Things are not bad in themselves, but our cowardice makes them so.

Those who have compared our life to a dream were right... We are sleeping awake, and waking asleep.

What of a truth that is bounded by these mountains and is falsehood to the world that lives beyond?

When I play with my cat, who knows if I am not a pastime to her more than she is to me?

Categories: Michel de Montaigne, Quotes of the day


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